Co-Dep EXTERNAL Negatives – from OTHERS

I’m just trying to be nice!

PREVIOUS: External negatives – in us

SITE: Negotiation & the ‘niceness trap (4 parts, re. biz)

The HIGH COST of being ‘too nice’ (cont.)

NOTE: This is how others can react to co-dep ‘niceness’The ‘THEY’ applies to the unscrupulous, the walking wounded, or average joes/janes who aren’t malicious, but don’t have much psychological or personal insight.

• They take advantage of you
Being too available encourages depressed, passive-aggressive, addicted, lazy or narcissistic people (takers) to use you to their benefit – counting on your good nature, & giving nothing back! Once it’s clear that you’re ‘soft’, they’ll ignore any boundary or objection you try to apply. They’ll also demand increasingly more from you, taking you for granted

 They don’t trust you
Since most people assume that few of us are genuinely kind, they’ll tend to doubt your best intentions, considering it a red flag of insincerity. This is true in many circles, where dog-eat-dog prevails. People assume you want something in return, & you do – but probably not what they think. So you risking being misunderstood, since your motive is to be liked & accepted into the ‘inner circle’, no matter how tacky or immature it is

• They have expectations
Because you always do too much, you actually train people to expect you to function way beyond what’s reasonable, or what the job calls for. This becomes their norm for you, at home & work. People actually appreciate you less, taking you for granted, & depend on you to take up their share of responsibilities

They will people-please you
If you’re too nice all the time, your friends – or employees if you’re a boss – will be reluctant to tell you if you have distorted thinking about something or come up with an unworkable idea.  It’s a form of ‘polite deception’, since they don’t want to hurt you, & maybe they think (or know) you won’t be able to handle disagreements or reality. This prevents people from helping you think clearer, make better decisions, be emotionally healthier & more successful

They don’t respect you
You may be seen as a wimp, a patsy, a fool, or just naive – not someone worth listening to.  If you’re a boss, they assume you’re weak, not to be looked up to or able to lead. Whatever your role (family, friends, work), you may in fact be under the delusion that you are building friendships, protecting yourself from ‘depressives’ & making yourself indispensable

HOWEVER: Most unhealthy people talk about others behind their back! Your over-niceness just gives them another topic, & when you find out – third hand – you get angry, but silently, of course!

• They don’t take you seriously
If you let others get away with their ‘crap’, if you give everyone the benefit of the doubt when they clearly don’t deserve it, if you forgive & forget too easily –  people will take your position of  taking the ‘high road’ as oblivion, stupidity or that you don’t care. They will ignore & disregard any opinions or valid suggestions you have to offer, since they assume (or know) you won’t object

They ignore you
If you find it hard to say no, people will eventually assume you mean Yes – even when you say No. That gives them permission to keep pestering, coaxing or manipulating you to do something you actually don’t want to do, because they know you’re a pushover. Also, there are always those who will guilt trip you if you try refusing  them what they want, & some people will be able to talk you into helping them with everything – even when you’re not feeling well, or are busy with other things

• They take offense
If you’re doing too much, too fast & better than everyone else, it makes others look bad, which they will resent. If you’re too positive, pleasant, willing or too flattering, the higher-ups may find it acceptable or at least tolerable, but your peers will ‘not be amused’. This can also apply to parents vs children, siblings with each other, bosses vs co-workers…..

•  They only come or call when they need something
For most people you become nothing more than a means to an end – theirs. They only contact you when they need something, whether it’s a favor, a rush job or just someone to dump their woes on. You’re only a tool to be used, albeit very caring & full of helpful information

• They find you boring
 Your conversations are not usually very interesting. If you never push back, if you never have a clear opinion, if you don’t know what you want….. it’s as if you’re a blank, invisible, not someone others can connect with – which is unsatisfying. Plus it makes them do all the work in the relationship, which is tiring.

NEXT: EXTERNAL Neg. results #2

Negative ReACTions to Painful Events (Fear)


no, I’m gonna fix ‘em, or I could convince them…

PREVIOUS: Negative ReACTions to Events – intro

See post : “Fear is the Absence of Love”


3. ACTIONS (cont)
a. FEARFUL Reactions to painful events
What makes us so scared? No matter what our style of reaction is, most of our fear is housed in the WIC ego state, which was accumulated in childhood & which has not yet been cleaned out. So when we encounter an ‘event’ that touches that deep well of pain, we regress to our younger self – & react the way we did as kids

Be Mute – this is probably the most common for ACoAs.  When we’re scared, the thinking part of the brain (frontal cortex) shuts down, temporarily.  When the perceived danger is passed, the ‘computer’ lights up again.  That’s why we only think of what to say AFTER the event – when it may be too late to respond. Whenever it is possible, it’s perfectly ok to go back to that person later to ask what they meant, or to stand up for ourselves – but we rarely do.  We just obsess about what we should have said & hate ourselves for being ‘weak’.

Withdraw – we’re so hurt by some person or situation that all we can do is pull away – permanently – instead of speaking up for ourselves.  It may have been caused by a company, a teacher, a friend…. This would be ok if the decision came from the Adult part of us – as a self-caring decision to stay away from bad places/ people.  But for many ACoAs, the WIC is in charge of our decision, only focused on not getting re-wounded by putting up a wall!withdraw

Isolate – this is more than just withdrawing from a particular person or place. It’s about hiding out like a wounded creature to lick it’s wounds. We’ve been abused for so long – first at home & then by spending too much time with the wrong people – that damaged ACoAs aren’t as self-repairing as many animals.  If we have weak boundaries, a lot of S-H, cognitive distortion & depression — we stay in our cave & never want to come out.  If we do, & then someone steps on our toes – again – we scuttle back in & hide for another decade!

Justify / Over-explain – our second favorite reaction to someone attacking giving us a hard time OR catches us in a mistake, is trying to justify ourselves – which no one wants to hear! The situation causes so much S-H or anxiety that the WIC part has to convince the other person that we’re not so bad, that they got it all wrong, that we couldn’t help it, what we really meant was…. So we over-explain, making a fool of ourselves! This is NOT the same as our Adult part being assertive by correcting a misunderstanding or stopping an abuse.

PeopScreen Shot 2016-06-19 at 7.55.22 AMle-Please – many ACoAs are profoundly co-dependent. We depend on how others perceive us to give us an identity.  So if someone is distant, self-centered or angry – we think it means something bad about us!  We’ll do anything to win them over.  If they seem to like us we’ll do anything to keep them from changing their mind!

EXP:  Jose had a habit of being verbally abusive whenever he felt hurt. Skyia finally broke up with him after he threatened to beat her up for going to school in another state & leaving him behind.  Then he kept calling & texting, alternately begging her to come back or blaming her for making him so depressed that he landed in the hospital! She hated the disgusting names he was calling her, but at the same time felt so guilty for doing what she needed to, that she sent him $1,000!

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 7.50.00 AM✶ Many ACoAs have some form of anxiety disorder (intense undifferentiated fear), as a result of natural sensitivity PLUS being survivors of incest, physical abuse, emotional torture & neglect…. which combine to make it hard for us to cope under pressure and around people who are impatient &/or demanding. SO – we need to be extra gentle with ourselves but never give up!

NEXT: Negative ReACTions (Anger)

Negative ReACTions to Painful Events (Intro)

Should I hide or attack?


REVIEW previous posts: ‘Events, Conclusions’

REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.


It’s inevitable that we will take some type of ‘action’ in response to a stressful EVENT.  What kind of action will depend on our native personality & the specific CONCLUSIONS we draw about the unpleasant situation (the CDs used).

• As previously mentioned, many ACoAs are not readily aware of our thoughts (beliefs) or our emotion.  So, when an old button gets pushed, we just re-act. It can happen so fast it seems we have no control of our actions, which may be verbal &/or physical.  We are driven either by fear or anger, terror or rage.

• It’s normal for humans to be angry whenever we’re hurt, frustrated or scared. Anger is simply the psychic energy needed to prepare us for action & is a fitting response to certain situations. Anger & Fear are on opposite sides of Plutchik’s  Emotion Wheel. To heal, ACoAs living mainly in fear need to connect with their angry feelings, &  those steeped in rage need to get in touch with the fear & sadness underneath.  The key is Balance.

COVERT: ACoAs who were trained to not be angry & are afraid to feel it now – are crippled by that suppression! Without healthy anger we can feel stuck, be depressed AND cannot stop others from mistreating us
OVERT: Other ACoAs are too ready to react with hostility whenever the WIC gets upset, especially when feeling abandoned.  We get nasty & cut people off, which hurts us just as much as the other person, since rage pushes others away & we’re already feeling unwanted & unloved!

Let’s see how the 3 circles work, in an ongoing situation:
EVENT (condition): Shakeera is dating a complicated young man – sometimes thoughtful, smart & sensitive, other times self-pitying & whiny. When he’s depressed & needy he Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 7.42.42 AMthreatens suicide, can’t look for work & lives off of Shakeera’s income.
Her Emotions: pity, love, disgust, rage, panic, compassion

 + CONCLUSIONS (thoughts) – When he’s in a good space, Shakeera thinks he’s the best, ever!  When he’s very down, her co-dependence kicks in – “I have to fix this mess”, “I know how to help him – I’ll tell him all the ways he can get his life together”, “He just has to be ok, I can’t stand this” , “I feel humiliated being with such a looser”….

= ACTIONS: Shakeera alternately bullies him to pull himself together, gives him endless advice, tells him what he did wrong, listens for hours to his self-hate or joins him in a depressed stupor.
• He doesn’t change & she gets more frustrated. None of her actions helps either one of them!  Her FEAR of abandonment keeps her there and tries to cure him so she doesn’t have to leave!

Our actions can tell us which ego state is in charge at the moment & how healed or unhealed a particular button is.  How we act out our rage may be the way our parents reacted to stress, or how we were allowed to behave as kids, or how we would have liked to react, back then, but knew it was too dangerous to do so.

▶ Don’t let the self-help gurus tell you not to FEEL angry!  ACoAs have a lot of it pent-up from childhood abuse (& from bad experiences as adults) & need to get it out of our system – but appropriately.Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 7.40.57 AM

What is of concern is how we ACT (express the rage). We need to have the emotion but change our behavior. I’m stressing rage, because it is:
• a response to prolonged abuse   • more highly charged than anger
• usually driven by great anxiety   • not governed by clear thinking
• an automatic reaction – as a form of self-preservation, even when misplaced from the past onto a present-day event

✶ How the 3 circles work in an anger-producing situation:
EVENT: Sal hates being bothered by people in public places. One night he gets on an almost empty bus, on his way home from work. A smelly bag-lady get on at the next stop, looks around and sits down right next to Sal!
Emotions: revulsion, anger, frustration, superiority

+ CONCLUSIONS (thoughts) – “Why does this always have to happen to me?! There are 20 other seats she could have picked! Why ME?? Why do I attract the crazies? Me, only me!” (CDs: ‘Personalization’ , ‘Egocentric’ & ‘Can’t Stand It’)

= ACTIONS: Sal starts yelling at the woman & gets off the bus at the next stop. He keeps talking about the incident, repeating it over & over the next day to everyone he can corner
• He’s taken this personally, feeling like a victim & tries to get validation & sympathy from his hearers. The woman could have either been lonely &/or wanted to bum some change.  It was never about him!

NEXT: Negative  reACTions (Fear)